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TidBITS#216/07-Mar-94

As the anticipation for PowerPC news builds, we bring the bad news of another virus sighting and the decimation of the community Info-Mac archive site. Craig O'Donnell dispenses more speaker wisdom; Tom Abbott reviews a PowerBook 160 upgrade; America Online, CompuServe, and NIFTY-Serve improve their Internet access; and finally, Mark Gavini relates his discussion with Intel about why he should switch to Pentium rather than buy a PowerPC Mac.

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Copyright 1994 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
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MailBITS/07-Mar-94

The big news last week was the decimation of the Info-Mac archive site at <sumex-aim.stanford.edu> by an unknown cracker. This troglodyte seems to have gotten his jollies deleting hundreds of files at a public Internet resource and depositing kiddie-porn, along with an undoubtedly bogus email address. Needless to say, the Info-Mac archives will be down for a while as the moderators rebuild them from the mirror sites (yet another good reason for mirror sites!). Please use one of the mirror sites mentioned in TidBITS #213 to retrieve old files. If you have any clues as to who might have been so offensively stupid as to have done this, feel free to tell me or to <info-mac-request@sumex-aim.stanford.edu> and we'll hopefully be able to put the information to good use. Jeff Sikkema <jsikkema@delphi.com> was connected when the cracker was deleting files and watched, frustrated and helpless, as files disappeared. Jeff sent me email immediately, but I unfortunately didn't receive it in time to do anything more than forward to the appropriate people, all of whom had already realized by that time. We'll find out the proper course of action should anyone see this sort of thing happen again, an Internet 911 number as Jeff put it, and publish that information here. The Internet was built on trust and cooperation, and it's unacceptable to allow this sort of vandalism to sully our community resources.

Jonathan Schultz <schultz@iastate.edu> reminded us that Alarming Events is one of several former CE Software products that are now published and supported by PrairieSoft, not a current CE product as we implied in TidBITS #215.

PrairieSoft -- 515/225-3720

Connectix has announced plans to port RAM Doubler to the Power Macs sometime in the next few months. I don't believe the current version works on the Power Macs under emulation mode, which isn't too surprising given the low level at which it hooks into the operating system.

Connectix -- 800/950-5880 -- 415/571-5100 -- 415/571-5195 (fax) -- connectix@aol.com

Claris Resolve has faded away entirely, with Claris announcing that it will no longer continue development work on the spreadsheet. Claris will continue to support Resolve until 31-Mar-95 and will sell Resolve through 31-Mar-94. Resolve simply didn't sell enough copies to be worth the effort, and Claris is encouraging registered Resolve users to switch to ClarisWorks 2.1's spreadsheet module, sweetening the encouragement with a mere $29 upgrade fee until 30-Sep-94 (have your Resolve registration number ready and call the 800 number below). Although people with trivial spreadsheet needs will find ClarisWorks an acceptable substitute, serious Resolve users will probably switch to Excel, especially considering that Lotus 1-2-3 on the Macintosh hasn't exactly become the de facto standard.

Claris -- 800/544-8554

Positive Experiences? -- Craig Isaacs <craig.i@applelink.apple.com> wrote to suggest that we not only talk about negative (but constructive) experiences in our Caveat Emptor column, but also positive experiences. Upon reflection, I realized that Craig raises a good point. It doesn't make the world a better place to print "I called Apple and they were nice to me." However, if you've had a positive experience with a company that will be instructive to other users, perhaps in pursuing a line of inquiry or working to fix odd bugs, and which may serve as a positive example for other companies, then publishing that information may improve the world.

Floppy Concerns -- There has been concern that people would have trouble replacing the floppy drive in an old SE/30 or Plus, since those machines cannot physically accept the new manual inject drives. This came up because an Apple rep speaking at a seminar for Apple support coordinators in higher education said all Macs sent in for floppy repairs would receive a new manual inject drive. Luckily, we have confirmed (from a contact within Apple) that Apple has several companies repairing the old SuperDrives and the even-older 800K drives. So, if your SE's drive goes, you can replace it with a comparable drive. It might be nice to get a fancy new floppy, but it would be pointless since you couldn't insert disks into it. Of course, whether or not it's worth it to replace the floppy drive is another story entirely, given the price of Macs like the Quadra 605.


PowerPC Intro

by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor -- mha@baka.ithaca.ny.us

Technical Support Coordinator, BAKA Computers

The 21st century is close at hand, and we're impressed that Apple is doing a better job of taking advantage of technology at its disposal. Rather than inviting just a select few to next Monday's gala introduction of the Power Mac line, Apple is "inviting" the whole world, or at least the northern hemisphere, by making the introduction available for satellite downlink.

We're told that the live satellite telecast is scheduled for 10:00 AM Eastern Standard Time (EST is GMT -5) on Monday 14-Mar-94 and should run approximately an hour and a half. A repeat telecast is scheduled for 1:00 PM EST the same day.

The Ku band telecasts will be carried by the G-Star satellite on 2/7H, at a frequency of 12096.

-- Information from:
Apple propaganda

New Virus, Updates Announced

by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor -- mha@baka.ithaca.ny.us

According to a bulletin from Professor Gene Spafford of Purdue University, a new Macintosh virus was recently discovered by Mac users in Italy. This virus, dubbed "INIT-9403," has the potential to erase information on hard disks attached to infected computers.

The virus apparently was initially spread through altered versions of pirated commercial software. Once installed by the software, the virus alters the Finder, and may insert copies of itself in various data compression and archive applications. From there, the virus can spread to other Macs. After a certain number of files have been infected by a given copy of the virus, it erases disks connected to the system.

Although the virus has so far only been seen on Macs running the Italian version of the Macintosh operating system, it's important that all users upgrade their antiviral utilities to combat it and help prevent further spread. New versions of Central Point Anti-Virus, Rival, SAM, and Virex, the commercial entries in the Mac antiviral field, are already available and may be obtained from the vendors. Updates may also be available from company BBSs or the Internet. Antiviral updates are typically available in:

ftp://rascal.ics.utexas.edu/mac/virus/

Search strings for the new virus for use in Jeff Shulman's shareware Virus Detective will be sent to registered users. An update to Chris Johnson's free Gatekeeper package is anticipated by the end of this week.

John Norstad of Northwestern University quickly released version 3.4 of his popular freeware utility, Disinfectant, available at:

ftp://ftp.acns.nwu.edu/pub/disinfectant/disinfectant34.sea.hqx

Norstad has since announced that a bug in 3.4 causes error messages to appear when the user scans the System Folder on a Mac using System 7.1 and System Enablers 003 (for the LC III) or 040 (for the Centris or Quadra 610, 650, and 800). He plans to release an update within the next several days, but assures users that the Disinfectant 3.4 application and protection INIT are effective against the virus. Users should ignore the error messages that appear when the Enabler file is scanned. The protection INIT has no known problems and can be used without fear of erroneous error messages coming up.

Users who typically get their antiviral utilities from the Info-Mac archive at <sumex-aim.stanford.edu> should use another site this time due to the deletion of files by an as-yet-unknown infiltrator (see above for details).

-- Information from:
Gene Spafford -- spaf@cs.purdue.edu
John Norstad -- j-norstad@nwu.edu

Internet Access Improves, Sort Of

For those thousands of people trapped on America Online and yearning to escape onto the Internet, well, you still can't. But the gates were lowered slightly last week when AOL provided access to Usenet news via an interface that's somewhat similar to the one used for reading forums on AOL. In other words, as a newsreader, it stinks, but it's a start. I won't slam on it too much here except to note that if you plan on reading a lot of Usenet news, the cost may add up fast if you're near the point where you pay for additional hours each month anyway, especially at the sleep-inducing 2400 bps that still bogs down most Macintosh users. Use the keyword "Internet" to visit that area, and be warned that they don't even pretend that it's complete yet.

In other news, Povl Pedersen <pope@imv.aau.dk> mentions that CompuServe is beta testing the ability to telnet into CompuServe machines via the Internet address <compuserve.com>. This could make CompuServe significantly more affordable for many non-U.S. readers without local CompuServe phone numbers. The only liability currently is that you must use the pokey 7-bit Kermit transfer protocol with small block sizes to transfer files. And to answer the question, "So why would you bother if you have Internet access?" the reason is that a number of companies provide tech support only on CompuServe and will not even respond to Internet email through the gateway. And, for the moment it's also a good way to get to ZiffNet/Mac, my favorite place for getting the MacWEEK top stories two days before the magazine arrives in my mailbox. It would be nice to see other services such as AOL, eWorld, and AppleLink offer such a Telnet connection as well since they either are or promise to be major Macintosh support areas.

To continue the overseas bent in this article, Masato Ogawa <ogawa@ga.sony.co.jp>, who has helped us for years by redistributing TidBITS in Japan, tells us that Japan's largest online service, NIFTY-Serve, now provides enhanced Internet access. You can send email to anyone on NIFTY-Serve with the address format:

NIFTY-ID@niftyserve.or.jp

Those who have CompuServe or ZiffNet/Mac accounts can send email directly to NIFTY-Serve by prefixing the NIFTY-Serve userid with:

>NIFTY:

Finally, and this is the most interesting, you can telnet into NIFTY-Serve via the address <r2.niftyserve.or.jp>. Masato says, "At this time, NIFTY's surcharge is only 10 yen/minute (approximately 110 yen/dollar, currently). There is no additional fee from NIFTY for using Telnet. Of course, you need a NIFTY ID, which you can get by contacting a CompuServe representative (because NIFTY and CompuServe have a strong relationship). There is an English menu system called NIFTY-ES, but it's not a "translated" interface of the Japanese interface, but is instead separate forums. So you need Japanese literacy to join most of the NIFTY forums (and you may need a Japanese script for Macintosh such as the Japanese Language Kit. It really works, I used it)."


Put a Little 'Magic' in Your PowerBook

by Tom Abbott -- yoshiko@ccwf.cc.utexas.edu

In days gone by, people worked to make their cars go faster. These days we work to make our computers go faster. We get under the hood to improve our machines by adding more RAM, a bigger hard drive, a faster modem, or a faster CPU. But what do you do if you want to juice up your PowerBook? The PowerBook offers precious little elbow room once you get inside.

Technology and product innovation move so fast that the rate of new product introduction and consequent obsolescence can be a tough pill to swallow. PowerBooks are no exception; the PowerBook 160 I bought in late 1992 was superseded within 9 months by the PowerBook 165 - a 33 MHz factory hot rod!

The pundits keep telling us that our old computers are still quite capable and we should be philosophical about progress, but still it is galling to see how much faster newer Macs can be. In computers, speed is one of those things like fresh fruit, you just can't get enough. My PowerBook 160 is a great box! It has virtually replaced my faithful SE/30, but that old 16 MHz SE/30 seems faster. Maybe that is why Apple brought out the 160 Turbo (aka PowerBook 165) so quickly.

Apple did not, however, offer an upgrade path for those of us who own PowerBooks 140s or 160s or the Duo 210s, but after-market vendors have come to the rescue. Several vendors offer upgrades that bring slower PowerBooks to the maximum speed for their PowerBook family. The PowerBook 140 or 145 can be brought up to the speed of a 170 at 25 MHz with an FPU; the PowerBook 160 can go up to 33 MHz with FPU giving the performance of a PowerBook 180; and the Duo 210 can go to 33 MHz, essentially becoming a Duo 230.

MacProducts, located in Austin, Texas, offers PowerBook upgrades. They have sold Mac upgrades since the first 128K Mac and earned a reputation for good products and service. Their prices are about the same as other vendors, but they seemed an obvious choice for me since they're only a few minutes drive away.

Upgrading is not a do-it-yourself operation; in all cases, you must send your PowerBook to the vendor for the transplant. That's good, because when they finish, they put a one year warranty on their work. When I told them that I wanted to write this article, they agreed to let me watch and ask questions. In the end the upgrade was performed during the week before Christmas, it was hectic there and I didn't observe the surgery, but I did talk with the technician who performed the operation and with the chief engineer who developed the process.

Service -- All of the companies that do the PowerBook upgrades have you ship your machine to them by express courier, promise 24-hour turnaround, and ship it back to you the same way. [Note that this is no longer true - see below. -Adam] If you've lost your original packing, MacProducts sends a specially designed shipping box to protect your PowerBook. When you call them, they talk you through the whole process and fax an order form to help you get everything right. In my case, since I live in Austin, these considerations did not apply, but just to check them out, I called their 800 line and went through the whole process with one of their telephone consultants. I found him to be polite and knowledgeable.

When I told him at the end that I was local, he said, "Come on in, we'll get it for you in half a day." That is exactly what happened. I hung around for a while and talked with the staff while my precious was in surgery then went out for coffee; when I came back two hours later the technician brought my revitalized PowerBook out and proudly demonstrated the fact that the "About This Mac" window believed it was living in a PowerBook 180. He said they usually like to burn-in the new upgrades overnight before shipping them out, but since I was coming back the next day to interview them, I could take it with me and check it out myself. So I did.

Results -- Over the past two weeks, I've run just about every piece of software I own from Color It! to HyperCard to MacSLIP to Nisus to Z-Term. I have not found any compatibility problems. The machine is visibly faster, but higher processing speed does not affect disk operations, so my bloated system with its Japanese fonts still takes a while to come up.

Using Scott Berfield's Speedometer 3.23, I ran the full gamut of Speedometer tests before and after the upgrade. Speedometer comes with standard results for most Macs compared with the Mac Classic which scores 1.0 on all tests. The numbers from Speedometer are more meaningful when compared to other Speedometer tests, so I've included Scott's Classic and stock PowerBook 180 readings for comparison with my "160+" along with the percent change from the 160 to the 160+.

  Speed Test:      Classic  180      160      160+       % change
  -----------------------------------------------------------
  CPU              0.98    8.61     6.36     8.56       +34.59 %
  Math             0.98    28.27    8.98     30.36      +338.08 %
  K Whetstones     0.99    57.08    10.38    58.29      +561.56 %
  Fast Fourier     0.99    31.31    7.51     31.21      +415.58 %

It is obvious that installing the 33 MHz 68882 and 68030 gives the PowerBook 160+ a lot more hustle in the mathematical operations department, but what does this amount to in real world, see it on my screen results? Subjectively, I can see that everything I do is smoother. At this point, I'm not doing much spreadsheet work on the PowerBook, mostly word processing, graphics, and telecommunications. There is no doubt that the accelerated PowerBook does everything more quickly. I timed scrolling a 5K Nisus file that contained mixed Japanese and English text, a typical task for me. Before the upgrade it took 5.49 seconds from top to bottom afterwards, it made the trip in 3.01 seconds - about 45 percent faster. That's impressive!

Is it worth it? -- Magic upgrades cost from $129 to $399 depending on which upgrade you need. If you do number crunching or something that does a lot of calculating you will see a truly impressive gains. According to the tech-guys at MacProducts, the pick-up in speed is more impressive on the PowerBook 140. In my case I'm a writer and HyperCard developer. The gains are not so dramatic, but they are there. The PowerBook 160 - Turbo is faster at everything. Am I happy with it, Yes. Is it worth it? Yes, I think so.

What other PowerBooks can be upgraded? At present, the following upgrades are being offered: 140 to 170, 145 to 170*, 160 to 180, for the PowerBooks, and a Duo 210 to 230 upgrade. You can give your PowerBook a new lease on life with one of these upgrades.

  Model     Speed     Upgrade to      Price
  -------------------------------------------
  PB140     16 MHz    25 MHz +FPU     $329.00
  PB145     25 MHz    add FPU        $129.00*
  PB160     25 MHz    33 MHz +FPU     $399.00
  Duo 210   25 MHz    33 MHz          $399.00
  * At this time they cannot add an FPU to the PowerBook 145B.

Upgrading the current generation of PowerBooks has a finite limitation, because the new models are out and almost all of the candidates for this kind of upgrade are already out there in someone's hands. Eventually vendors who do only PowerBook upgrades will move on, but a well-rounded shop like MacProducts should be around for the duration, a comforting thought. The folks at MacProducts graciously took the time to talk with me in the midst of busily filling customer's orders three days before Christmas. From what I could observe, they try hard to please people. I'm pleased with my hot rod PowerBook 160, and if your PowerBook seems in need of a tonic, give them a call at 800/622-8721.

[Note: Digital Eclipse has announced the F/25X, a PowerBook accelerator for the PowerBook 140 or 145 that replaces the original PowerBook daughtercard that holds a 16 MHz 68030 with a card containing a 25 MHz 68030 and an FPU, essentially converting a 140 or 145 into a 170 sans active matrix screen. The Digital Eclipse card does not require you to send in your PowerBook, but must be installed by a qualified technician, and you must return the old daughtercard to Digital Eclipse. The list price for the F/25X is $399, but through 11-Mar-94, you can purchase it for $299. ]

Digital Eclipse -- 800/289-3374 -- 510/547-6101 -- 510/547-6104 (fax) -- desipro@aol.com

Speaker Notes

by Craig O'Donnell -- dadadata@world.std.com

Author of Cool Mac Sounds, Second Edition

People complain that the low cost Sony speakers such as the SRS57 and SRS58 models "cut off" beeps because they power down when there's no audio signal. This is true (it's sort of a sleep mode to save batteries if you're using your Sony speakers on the space shuttle or at the beach). Unlike a PowerBook, sleep happens even when you're using the AC wall wart with them. But if you leave your Sound control panel set to seven - all the way up - and adjust the volume from the little Sonys you won't have this problem. I bought SRS-57s back when they were just about the only thing available under $200 and they've worked great like this for me.

Many people are wondering about the Yamaha YST-M10 speakers - they are powered and shielded and priced around $80 to $90 mail order. They are absolutely the best buy in this price class. They provide a respectable 10 watts, electronic bass enhancement that makes them sound nice and warm, and a presence control.

Ignore the idiotic review in a recent Macworld (Apr-94). The speakers are not the same quality as a $6,000 set of Meyer powered HD1s; they are most certainly not recommended as stage monitors for a band; and the controls (Presence and Volume) are small, poorly shaped knobs that win my Don Norman "Duh" Prize for the month. The knobs aren't knurled, making them hard to grasp and there is no detent or "pointer" so you can check the setting by feel. As an ex-audio engineer I know exactly how important this is.

This cavilling aside, these Yamaha's are a steal for anyone using an AV Mac or a desktop Mac with built-in CD-ROM. And remember that the Power Macs are coming - with stereo 16-bit sound input and output.

You would only choose AppleDesign speakers over these Yamaha speakers if you need two inputs on the speakers themselves for your Mac's beeps and an external CD ROM drive. The YST-M10s have only one stereo input (like most powered speakers except the Apple and Altec models).

Finally, Mark Anbinder and Martin Hying were wondering about why a CD-ROM drive in an AV Mac "skipped" when played through AppleDesign Powered Speakers. The problem is that the AppleDesign speakers have a "noise gate" inside for the 1/8-inch input only. This cuts out low level signals (hiss, for example) because the design assumption was that this would be plugged into the cheesy 8-bit output of your typical LC or Performa.

On an AV Mac, all it succeeds in doing is cutting off very low level audio, as you've discovered, on CDs like classical music with very quiet passages. To confirm this, listen to the AV output on headphones, and you won't hear any skipping. There is no noise gate on the RCA input section of the AppleDesign speakers. Try it; you'll see.


A Conversation With Intel

by Mark Gavini -- gavini@apple.com

As you might have seen, Intel is running ads in MacWEEK and other Macintosh magazines touting their 80x86 chip architecture as an alternative to the PowerPC chip as developed by Apple, IBM, and Motorola.

I called the number, received the literature and called the 800 number they reference for technical questions (I encourage you and all your Macintosh friends to do the same. The number is 800/228-4549).

Here are the relevant points of our conversation:

I spoke with a pleasant-sounding woman and mentioned that I had seen Intel's ad in MacWEEK and was confused. "Can I run my Mac software on an Intel chip?" I asked.

"Well, not exactly," she replied. "There are many Macintosh programs that have Intel-based equivalents, such as Microsoft Word and Excel."

"Hmm," I said. "I use Claris MacWrite and Claris Resolve. But can I run my Mac operating system on Intel chips?"

"Well, not exactly," she replied, "you would have to use DOS or Windows. Intel wanted to provide Mac users who are considering the technology change to PowerPC with an option, since to use PowerPC they will have to buy all new hardware."

"But Apple tells me that I can run all my Mac software and the Mac operating system on the PowerPC, can I do that on the Intel chips, or will I have to learn a completely new operating system?" I asked innocently. I'm glad she couldn't see my grin.

"No, you would have to learn a new operating system," she admitted reluctantly.

"I don't think I want to do that. But what about the price? If your Intel chips will cost me less I might consider it. What is the cost of an entry level Pentium system?" I continued. This was going to be good...

"Intel does not sell computers, we just sell the microprocessor, but you would probably see street prices of around $2,500 for a Pentium based system," she replied, finding herself on safer ground briefly.

"Well, Apple says that their PowerPC systems will start around $2,000. Can I use all my peripherals and internal components like video cards on a Pentium system?" I queried.

Her answer came back even more reluctantly. "Probably not since the internal architecture of Macintosh computers is different from Intel-based computers."

"So let me get this straight," I said, driving in the final nail. "I can use neither my Macintosh operating system nor any of my Mac software programs, and if I want to use software that also exists on the Mac, I must buy new Windows versions of Macintosh programs that I don't even currently use. I must learn a new operating system, and buy all new hardware that may cost more than a PowerPC Mac. And all that, just to use Intel chips. It doesn't sound like much of a choice to me. Thank you for your time, I'm no longer confused."

"You're welcome." Click.


Reviews/07-Mar-94


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